Monday, 11 December 2017

HOW LIFE GETS IN THE WAY OF WRITING



                                                         Stuff happens in threes: fact!


THINGS happen in threes. Seriously. Scientific fact. One based on years of meticulous research and general observation by me. And my mother. And her mother before her. And, er, all my friends.

Births, for example. You never hear of a single birth. Start any conversation about babies, and before the topic has been exhausted, you’ll know of three newcomers to the world. Seed, breed and generation.


Deaths are the same. A certain dread, here, mind you. Great aunt passed away? You’ll be shaking out the good black coat for two more funerals before a fortnight is up. Because you’ll only have to mention your great aunt, and there’ll be tea and sympathy and details of another funeral. You’ve met the person twice, but you go. You hold your breath and wait for the third death. No matter who it is, no matter how tenuous the connection, you make it count. Three. Done now. No more.


It’s no wonder we are obsessed. Everything from fairy tales (Four Little Pigs, anyone?) to interior design (nobody advises arranging things in twos). Such thinking seeps into the pores of everyday life. Until we make the belief a reality. Too deep? Moving on. Where was I?


Things happening in threes. Right. The problem with that theory, is it starts to encompass everything. And it obstructs whatever the hell you’re trying to do. Like writing.


So, let’s get one thing straight. If you’ve a family, you’ll know what weekends are like: a massive black hole. All your plans, sense of order, concentration, odd socks, time itself, are sucked in, never to be seen again. It’s mentally damaging to expect too much. If you do find an hour here or there, it’s a gift. A thing of joy. If you don’t, c’est le weekend.


Mondays are different. Chez nous (that’s all the French I know) the husband goes back to work. The offspring (did I mention there are three?) go back to school and college. In a recent, typical week, Monday stretches ahead, hour after potential hour. I start to write, tucked away at my desk at one end of my kitchen, and during screen breaks, I make the dinner. By mid-morning, the casserole is ready to be cooked. I open the oven door and it falls off, crashing to the tiled floor.

Oh dear, I think. Or words to that effect. Granted, the door’s been wobbly for a while. I’ve had to be gentle with it. Coaxing it into place. But the oven is 20 years old. I take measurements and head to the nearest electrical shop to buy a new one.
“You paying for delivery and installation?” asks the man in the shop.
“Ah no, I thought I’d do that myself.” A beat. “Of course.”


On Tuesday, the new oven arrives. The old one is wheeled out. “Need to clean the floor before the new one goes in,” I say. “Work away,” says the man. I start, then pause, mid-wipe. There is a gulley, running behind the oven, where a water pipe should have been laid, then didn’t fit, and was tacked along the wall instead. And here’s Problem One: the gulley is full of water. We both stare at it. “Leave the new oven exactly where it is,” I say. “I’m phoning a plumber.”
“I think I know what’s wrong,” says the plumber. “I’ll be out tomorrow.”


It’s Wednesday. “Be prepared for the smell,” he says. He opens the outside shore, where previous builders apparently dumped bits of broken pipe and dirt. Add some grease, mix together, and drainage from the kitchen sink and dishwasher have nowhere to go. After he clears it, he pulls out the kickboards under the kitchen cupboards, and I begin three days of cleaning. There’s no permanent damage.


He’s gone when I run the dishwasher and I discover Problem Two. Now the kickboards are out, I realise that as it drains, water gushes all over the floor. I phone the plumber again. He returns, to find the hose on our 20 year old dishwasher has burst.

“We’ll install it,” says the man who sold me the oven. The nice man who installed the oven returns. “How’s the water problem?” he asks. “About to be sorted,” I say. He pops the dishwasher on a test cycle and leaves.


And I discover Problem Three. Now there’s no leaky hose, as the dishwasher drains, the water gushes out the top of the main pipe and soaks the inside of the under-the-sink cupboard.

When I phone the plumber, I can sense his disbelief. “Send me a photo of the pipe,” says he. I do. “Now, put me on speaker phone and I’ll talk you through it.” WHAT? But with lots of guidance, I take apart and unblock the pipe. When I put it all back together, it leaks slightly. “I’ll fix it tomorrow,” he says. Finally, on Friday evening, all is dry.


As I face the weekend, I’m amazed I got any writing done this week. Despite the reassurance of Three, I cannot relate to those Little Pigs. Were my life a fairy tale, I’d be the Shoemaker: the one who never finds time to make new shoes. Paradoxically, I’d also be the helpful elves who sew by night.
Meantime, if anyone needs their u-bend sorted, I’m your woman.


*This column originally appeared in: Women Writers, Women's Books.

Dear reader,

A very warm welcome from Dublin. Please feel free to 
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If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.
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Winding down for the holiday season? Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. See sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Wherever you are, and whether you celebrate or not, I'd like to wish you a very happy, peaceful Christmas. I'll be back in 2018 with more from This Funny Irish Life.
Hugs,
Sharon. xx

Monday, 13 November 2017

SLEEP: THE FINAL FRONTIER


                      Can't sleep? Reading and a warm drink might help.



AS FIRST WORLD problems go, getting enough sleep probably comes very low down the scale. Especially if you have a house and a comfortable bed.


And until recently, sleeping the whole night was never an issue.


Even when the offspring were babies, I could do all those middle-of-the-night feeds, and slide straight back to sleep. Which is why nobody I'm a bit surprised - annoyed even - that I'm fighting insomnia these days. Or, well...nights.  

In a bid for better sleep, I've asked around. It turns out, everyone has an opinion, a tried-and-tested formula. So, in the best tradition of sharing, here's the Beat The Insomnia check-list.


1. Get up early in the morning. Hard to do, when you've spent half the night awake, but force yourself. As it happens, I already do this. Not by choice, you understand, but because I have to. I'm definitely not a morning person.


2. Avoid coffee. OK, for coffee lovers (and I am one) that sounds like a special sort of torture. Instead, don't drink coffee after 12 noon. Fair warning: never try to engage me in sensible conversation until I've had that first cup. 


3. Exercise every day. I do this a bit: usually walking. I've tried running. Really, I have. I don't want to expand on that topic in a family-friendly blog. 


4. Don't eat late at night. Fair enough, although dinner is a moveable feast in our house. Totally dependent on when people are home/when they're going out/when I remember to start making it.


5. Avoid screens before bed. I'll be honest, I try to avoid looking at a computer or phone after dinner, but I make an exception for TV. My argument is I've been watching the telly for years before bed, and it never made a whit of difference.


6. Have a warm bath. Can I just say that I'd rather run a mile than sit in a tub of rapidly-cooling bath water? Showers were invented for a good reason.


7. Have a warm, milky drink. A bit of a problem if you can only stomach the taste of milk in your Cappucino, but whatever shakes your float.

8. Read before you sleep. Bit of a Catch 22, this one. If you love a book, it's very difficult to put it down. If you hate it, why would you read it? Still, I'll have to start reading the livestock reports. 

9. Take up a relaxing hobby. Slow cooking and yoga have been mentioned. Maybe I could do both at the one time for maximum impact?

10. Don't go to bed until you're tired. Seriously? I could have written this list myself.*

                                                                            *


Dear reader,

A very warm welcome from Dublin. Please feel free to 
SHARE today's column via the sharing buttons below. (And if you have any further tips for beating insomnia, please feel free to comment!)

If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.
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Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. See sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Hugs,
Sharon.



*And I did. ;)
 

Monday, 16 October 2017

On best laid plans...


Best laid plans? Sometimes life gets in the way



IT ALWAYS HAPPENS. The moment I start to take things for granted, making too many plans, life trips me up.


September hurtles along at whip-lash speed. Weeks racing towards weekends that are so busy, I find myself longing for Monday morning routine.


The last weekend of the month is looking no different. Yet, by early Friday afternoon, I begin to suspect it will be. For me, at least.


The Irish Debs is an excuse for our teenagers to dress up and party

The timing is laughable. The Middle One is invited to a Debs. For anyone not familiar with the term, the Debutante Ball is something we inherited from our English neighbours. Originally, upper class young ladies were 'introduced' to society during a season of formal social engagements.

But the Irish Debs - although still a graduate ball for all school leavers - is an excuse for our teenagers to dress up and party.


I have promised to drive her to The Boy's house early that evening. From there, his parents will take them both to the Debs venue.


I blame the peculiar feeling in my tummy, on the fact that by mid afternoon, there is no sign of her and she is uncontactable. She arrives home from college with barely an hour to spare.


     'Bus didn't come and phone's out of battery,' she says, struggling in and racing upstairs to the shower. I sit, leaning my head against a cool wall, as she begins her transformation.

I pull in, open the car door and vomit all over the road

By the time we hit the road - in rush hour traffic - the peculiar feeling in my tummy has become out-and-out nausea. Unable to speak, I roll down the window and concentrate on breathing.

     'Mum, you look awful.'
I glance at her: long white dress with sparkly bodice, shiny hair, clear, worried eyes.
     'You look great.'

It's all I can manage. We check a map and find The Boy's road. It's her first time here. I pull in, open the car door and vomit all over the road. Sweaty and shaking, I point wordlessly at the glove box.

In a 1 to 10 for first impressions, I probably score a minus 3

The Middle One grabs some tissues and I wipe my mouth, then clean the spatters off the car door. It's not pretty. I find some mints, knowing that I will be OK for a while.

The Boy's mother greets us at the door, and The Middle One introduces herself.
     'Come in.' She smiles at us both. I have a sudden vision of myself throwing up over beautiful wooden floors. I apologise, say goodbye to The Middle One, thank the mother and leave. In a 1 to 10 for first impressions, I probably score a minus 3.

I make it home. Barely. Over the next day and a half, I am vaguely aware of life going on around me. By now, I have a selfish three-way relationship with my bed, a bottle of flat 7-UP and my miniscule en-suite bathroom.

I finally re-emerge, pale, tired, incredibly thirsty and a few pounds lighter. There's always an upside.

In this country, we blame everything on the weather

'It's the weather,' my mother says, when I tell her. 'We need a cold snap: it'll kill all those bugs.' This is followed by a query about everyone else - she's worried it might run through the house.

That won't happen, I think. In another life, my mother would have been a nurse, and I learned from the best. I strip the sheets from the bed and throw them in a hot wash. I sterilise the bathroom. I even remember to sterilise the car door.

In this country, we blame everything on the weather. We're obsessed with it. Everything from frizzy hair to asthma attacks can - with some truth - be pinned on our damp climate. And we had a strange September. Hot, then cold, then mild and drizzly.

Now it's October. Ahead of a storm, we've had a warm, humid weekend. Two days of t-shirts and flip-flops. Sun and dark skies: things feel out of kilter.

Today, the whole country is being hit by Storm Ophelia. Families have stocked up on food, battened down the hatches, schools and colleges all over the country are closed for the day. 

Cold and drizzle? We're Irish, lads. And we know how to manage that.

This is a whole other mess of problems.

                                                      *


Dear reader,

A lovely warm welcome from Dublin. Please feel free to 
SHARE today's column via the sharing buttons below. 

If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.
   1. NEVER MISS my fun, personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. See sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Hugs,
Sharon.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Words: Let's use them, not abuse them.



                        All reporting, however flawed, is better than none.


"YOU KNOW if you say a word over and over again, it becomes meaningless," the middle child announces. "Try it, pick anything: chair! Chair...chair...chair...chair...chair..."


"I get the idea," I say, starting to become distracted by the repetition.

"If I heard that word all day, every day, it'd just become a sound," she says.

It gets me thinking about language. I've been thinking recently about how language constantly changes. Change can be good. It shakes us up, stops us using outdated words, makes us realise that language is a living thing and needs to evolve.


The Boy has a personal essay to write for English class. His teacher corrected the first draft, ringing a particular sentence. 'Syntax', she wrote in red biro. I show him how to reword the sentence. 


There's something to be said about knowing the rules before you break them. If the rules of grammar and structure and spelling are the caterpillar, the creative essay is the butterfly. Rules in mind, he fills the pages with words I'd rarely use.


Nobody ever said 'very wonderful'.

Does anyone use the word 'very' anymore? Or is everything 'super'? Super long, super funny, super damned annoying. Since when can something be 'super wonderful'? Nobody ever said 'very wonderful'. And if absolutely everything is 'awesome', how does anyone know what that means? 


It's difficult to tell how quickly words used on social media, will worm their way into every day life. When will we start to tell our partners and our children, our parents and siblings that we 'heart' them? What's wrong with the word 'love'?

When did it stop being useful? Or is it being overused? Is it because we now see that hashtag everywhere: #lovenothate. Our way of confronting the hate that pervades our society: bigotry, ignorance and discrimination, violence, death...the list is endless.


Fake news. Another new expression in the English language. When I first heard it, I burst out laughing. Who would use it? Fake means false, the opposite of true. Fake news means lies.

We start to forget what it means. We start to become numb to the insult.

But it's an expression that's thrown around more and more. In politics, in business, on social media. We hear it so often, that it's almost become meaningless.

And there's the danger. We start to forget what it really means. We start to become numb to the insult. At a time when we are determined to take offence at everything, the irony would be laughable, if it weren't tragic.

Constantly accusing elements of society of 'fake news' is a way of shutting people up. Shutting up the traditional media, for example. Or the so-called liberal classes. Or the intellectuals. The writers and the thinkers of our age.

The rule has always been to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

None of whom are perfect, of course. Because, like all humans, they are flawed.
But here's the thing. If the media, in their own imperfect way, do their job, and are allowed to do their job, then they will continue to make things uncomfortable for those who abuse their power, or who tell lies, or who do something wrong. They will continue to highlight what is wrong in the world. The rule has always been 'To comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable'.

And when they get it wrong, it's fine to argue with the same, flawed media. But it's never right to try to shut them up. It's never right to dismiss everything they report as 'fake news' and refuse to engage with them.

This is not the first time in recent history that the media, the liberal thinkers, the writers and intellectuals, have been dismissed and derided. In 1930s Europe anyone who spoke out against the populist regime that swept through Germany, was shut up. Sometimes in the most brutal and inhumane manner.

Eventually, truth will out.

And when newspapers and books were burned all over the country, millions of ordinary people celebrated. Because they'd been seduced by leaders who were careful to make their message very plain and very simple.

It's easier to understand words when they are plain and simple. Equally, it's difficult for nuanced language to find popularity in the age of the soundbite.

For those brave enough to continue to point out what is wrong, to argue with words, rather than with weapons...to refuse to shut up, it will be a hard road. But eventually, truth will out.

The Boy is on the third draft of his personal essay: 'My dreams and ambitions'. The thoughts are his own. If asked, I simply point out grammar mistakes...or help with syntax. I discourage slang.

Language is changing and beautiful and nuanced. We need to use it for good.

Sometimes we all need to stand up for what we believe.

                                                                                *



D
ear reader,

Big welcome from Dublin, where the weather has definitely become more Autumnal. Please feel free to 
SHARE today's column via the sharing buttons below. 

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I tend to keep this column light. Normal service will resume next month!!

If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.
   1. NEVER MISS my fun, personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. See sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Warmest wishes, 
Hugs,
Sharon.



#Fakenews #socialmedia #language #words

Monday, 21 August 2017

7 Things to Do? Make a List!



                                    Make things easy: make a list!


I AM a list person.
It's not because I am terribly organised, or rigid about sticking to a plan. I'm not actually a great planner.

Except when it comes to organising flights or planning holidays. But that's only because I find flying stressful, so the more organised I am, the less stressed I am. (See? Even thinking about it! That last bit was all written in one big breath.) But I'm getting side-tracked...


No, the reason I like lists, is because unless I write everything down, I forget half the stuff I'm supposed to do. So, if I need something in the shop? Have a phone call to make? A bill to pay? A blog to write? It's all on a list.

If it's not in the diary, it doesn't happen.

I owe my love of lists to a friend (the same one who lives opposite, who's terrified of small furry creatures like hamsters, but not a bit afraid of spiders). When our children were little, I spotted a desk diary on her  kitchen countertop. She was, like me at the time, a full-time, stay-at-home mum.

"Why do you keep a day-to-day diary?" I asked. She smiled.
"If it's in the diary, it means it'll happen. I'll remember to be somewhere, do that thing I have to do. If it's not it the diary, it doesn't happen."


I went out and bought a desk diary. Each year, I'm bought a new one (easy Christmas gift for one of the family). I have become completely dependent on it.


There are, I suppose, pros and cons. On the upside, once it's in the diary, it tends to get done. Not necessarily on the day (I'm not that good), but if it doesn't get done that day, it gets moved to the next day's list. So there is technically a system.

My children have known, from an early age, the perils of NOT WRITING IT IN THE DIARY. 

"But Mum, I told you about that", is usually met with "was it in the diary?"
They have all learned the hard way.

There is also that fabulous feeling that comes from crossing things out.

On the downside, I tend to rely less upon my memory. I know people who are stunned by the fact that I write everything down. But even the act of writing it, helps lock it into my memory.


There is also that fabulous feeling that comes from CROSSING THINGS OUT. It's like when you make a Christmas shopping list. You know the sheer pleasure you feel when you've crossed that last item off!

Make a list every day? You experience that joy every day.

Stop laughing! It's the small stuff...

                                                                              *


Dear reader,

Big welcome from Dublin, where we're still having a lovely summer. I'd love if you 
SHARED today's column via the sharing buttons below. 

If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.
   1. NEVER MISS my fun, personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. See sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.

Monday, 24 July 2017

PRIDE & PREJUDICE: THE IRISH CONNECTION



                                   Jane Austen: packed so much into a short life and continues to inspire.


EVERYONE has a favourite movie. It's that one you'll watch some evening when you've had the day from hell. Or lose yourself in for a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon, when you're too tired to do anything else. Throw in some popcorn, or a mug of coffee or a glass of wine and some chocolate...you get the picture. 

The wonderful thing about a favourite movie is not just seeing your favourite actors, or favourite characters on screen yet again. Nor is it about reliving memorable scenes or wonderful snippets of dialogue (you probably know them by heart at this stage, right?)

It's that there are no surprises. Because even the most adventurous of us, the ones who crave constant change (you know them: they never, ever holiday in the same place twice) sometimes need familiarity. A favourite movie - just like a favourite book - is a comfort blanket.

I have five all-time favourite movies. They are, in no particular order, as follows:
1. Woman of the Year, with the fab Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracey.
2. Back to the Future (Part 1) with the super Michael J. Fox.
3. It's a Wonderful Life (thank you for all those great Christmas Days on TV, Jimmy Stewart).
4. The Front Page with Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau (enough said).
5. Pride & Prejudice (the BBC mini-series with Colin Firth, which is not strictly a movie, and also the Keira Knightly/Mathew Macfadyen 2005 version, which is!)

Which, in a very roundabout way, leads me to the nub of this month's column. Sorry about that - I knew I'd get there in the end.

Yesterday, you see, there was a celebration of the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death at the 18th Century stately home, Hilton Park, Co Monaghan. Monaghan is a border-county in the north-west of Ireland, and Jane Austen was celebrated there with an open-air production of Pride and Prejudice.

So, what's the connection?* A little tenuous, by the looks of it, but if you travel a few miles down to County Longford, you'll stumble upon the adopted home of Tom Lefroy, who was the inspiration for Mr Darcy.

So, what's the real story? Apparently Lefroy’s aunt Anne, who lived in Hampshire and was a friend of the Austens, invited her nephew from Ireland, at the time a young law student, to stay for Christmas 1795. He met Jane Austen at a ball, and judging from letters to her sister, they fell in love.

It wasn't meant to be. Amongst their greatest obstacle, was Lefroy's aunt, who realised that were the young couple to marry, they might be extremely poor. So, Tom Lefroy was sent home.


Jane started work on Pride and Prejudice the following year, and by all accounts, drew from her own experience, to write the novel. When Lefroy's aunt visited a couple of years later, neither she nor Jane even mentioned Tom. Jane later wrote that she was too proud to make any inquiries. 


Jane Austen died on July 18th, 1817, at the terribly young age of 41. Tom Lefroy, however, lived into his 90s, and became a judge, and then a chief justice. Unlike Jane, he married. But when asked about Jane in later life, he said he had loved her. 


No doubt the staging of the novel, by the Chapterhouse Theatre Company yesterday, was excellent. As was the food and wine bar.

But finding out about what inspired one of my favourite books (and movies), leaves me torn. On the one hand, I'm grateful that Jane produced a novel that continues to delight and inspire novelists, readers, students and movie-makers.

On the other hand, I'm sad that her own love life was thwarted.   

                                                         *


* Jane Austen and the Irish Connection by Julia Forsythe, published in paperback/kindle from Amazon.



D
ear reader,

Hello from Dublin - and a rather different sort of column today. Please feel free to 
SHARE via the sharing buttons below. 

If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.
   1. NEVER MISS my fun, personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. See sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.

 

Monday, 26 June 2017

THE GENEROSITY OF THE IRISH



                       If you're Irish, be ready to fight for who gets the bill.



THE IRISH are a fiercely generous lot. Ask anyone. We insist on paying for rounds in the pub, even if we're with ten other people, and their drinks are coming in around €8 a pop. And we've already had as much as we can drink ourselves, and have moved on to water.

It's the same in restaurants. If we're out with friends, it doesn't matter who has had what. In fact, it's the non-drinkers who are more likely to insist that the bill is split evenly.
       "Don't be talking nonsense," your drinking friends will protest. "You didn't have a drop. You're not paying."
        "Don't be silly, now," (or words to that effect), you retort. "I'll hear none of it. You'll insult me if you don't split the bill evenly."

This contrasts peculiarly with tipping...we're not brilliant about it.

Depending on how long this conversation continues, it can become fairly heated. What you'll hardly ever see amongst Irish people, is careful study of the bill, and calculations so that each person only pays for exactly what they had. It just doesn't happen.

This contrasts peculiarly with tipping. We do tip, of course. But we're not brilliant about it. We don't have the same reputation, as say, Americans, who are really generous tippers. It's difficult to know whether this is as a result of poor wages State-side, for waiting staff, or something that comes from deep in the American psyche.

In recent years we've also seen an explosion of cafés and tea-shops in Ireland, and most days, it's like being an extra in Ireland's classic sit-com, Fr Ted. (For those who've never seen it, try to borrow a series!!)

Set on the fictional Craggy Island off the coast of Ireland, live three wonderfully dotty priests and their housekeeper, Mrs Doyle, in a dilapidated old Georgian house. In a much-loved scene, the iconic Mrs Doyle and her two friends (also house-keepers for the clergy), finish their tea in a local tea-rooms.

Having pronounced the tea just passable, because each prides herself on making the perfect brew, they all reach for their purses to settle the bill. Each insists on paying the bill, as the others argue that it's their turn. 

The argument, which begins politely, continues for many minutes, as each becomes more insistent and increasingly annoyed. One of the women tries to move to the counter to pay, and is pulled back by the others. Time passes, and the scene has descended into a hand-bag battering farce. The local police are called, and all three find themselves locked up, charged with disturbing the peace.

It could be the fault of The Irish Mammy.

Whilst we don't allow our need to pay, to drive us to violence, I've seen grown women run to the counter to pay for coffee and cake, slapping away friends who try to press money into their hands.

Or there are arguments, as the waiter waits patiently (this is not a thing to be rushed) for the first to cave.

It's hard to say where and how this streak emerged. It could be the fault of The Irish Mammy. Who, by all accounts, seems to closely resemble The Italian Mamma, or The Greek Mitír...feel free to suggest others in the comments below.

The Italians, as a race, are famously generous. Look at all those huge plates of pasta! Those pizzas the size of the table. Apart from fab Italian restaurants, it's worth noting that our fish 'n chip shops have always been run by Italians.


The Irish Mammy is of the opinion that her children need feeding up.


I can only speak for our local one, when I say that if we ask for five bags of chips, we get another two giant scoops thrown in on top. At no extra cost. I strongly suspect all the little fish 'n chip shops run this practice. But I digress.

The Irish Mammy is of the opinion that her children and their friends, no matter how old, are always in need of "feeding up". Nobody, from the plumber who's come to fix the sink, to the aunt she only saw the previous week, can escape without having something to eat and drink. She is forever doing a "big shop" (grocery shopping), to ensure that there's plenty in the house.

Naturally, it's not the done thing to admit to being generous. If we're accused of it, we shrug and get embarrassed and say things like "go 'way out'a that" and "ah, will you be going on with yourself."

Both of which translate as "shut up now, you're embarrassing me. I'm hardly likely to start agreeing with you, am I?"

Because that crosses the line of false modesty. And sometimes, the line of real modesty.

But that's a column for another time...

                                                                              *



Dear reader,

Hello from Dublin! I'd be delighted if you'd 
SHARE this column via the sharing buttons below.

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If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.
   1. NEVER MISS my fun, personal column + updates/guest author posts!
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Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. See sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.












 

Monday, 12 June 2017

**Temporary Changes**


GOOD morning from Dublin.
Yes, you are at This Funny Irish Life. And yes, there should be a column awaiting you this morning.

However, due to other commitments, my column will go from fortnightly to monthly for a little while.

This change is temporary.

My next column, therefore, will be on Monday, June 26.

I hope you'll check back then - and I look forward to restoring the normal schedule as soon as I can!

Have a wonderful week,
Hugs & xx,
Sharon.

Monday, 29 May 2017

THE TROUBLE WITH SMART PHONES.


                                                 Mobile phones: smokers are losing out.



THERE'S a major flaw in the design of smart phones. And it's one I spotted very recently, as I passed a busy restaurant on a Friday night.

Inside the restaurant, people were eating, talking, snap-chatting their food and keeping their children quiet by letting them play on their phones.

Outside, was a small group of smokers. They chatted in that way strangers chat, when they know they will only share a few minutes of conversation, but are linked, and somehow bonded, by their mutual habit.

Smokers already have one hand occupied - holding the cigarette.

Because of the public places indoor smoking ban in Ireland, our smokers congregate in designated areas, to indulge their craving. In the workplace, this tends to be in an outside 'shelter'. For bars, restaurants and cafés, it's simply on the pavement.

And here's the problem with the modern smart phone: it's not designed to use with one hand. Smokers already have one hand occupied - holding the cigarette. It's simply not practical to try to negotiate all that swiping and scrolling and social media posting, with the other.

Which means they're left with nothing to do, except smoke their cigarette and talk to each other! Sometimes, they even make eye contact. Somebody might crack a joke and others will laugh.

A new person to the group might introduce himself. A bit of hand shaking has even been known to happen. Because that's still something you can do with one free hand.

Nothing quite so archaic happens amongst the non-smokers. A friend of mine has lunch every day in her staff canteen. And every day she notices two twenty-something women who lunch together. At least, they sit opposite each other at the same table. They could be friends. She's not sure.

She's never actually seen them talk. She has waited, patiently, trying to catch them at it. But so far, nothing. Sometimes, they pick at the food in front of them. But mostly they take pictures of it.

Rarely do they lift their heads from their smart phones. Clearly, there's no need. The phones provide everything the two women want.

They barely look up from their phones when she is serving their food.

Another friend works in a restaurant. She regularly serves a family of five. The couple have young children. All have smart phones. Apparently, it works brilliantly for everyone involved, as nobody has to engage in conversation.

The parents don't talk to each other. Nor do they talk to their children. They barely look up, when she serves their food.

Neither of the parents seems to smoke, she tells me. Which must be a relief, as one can't imagine how they'd manage, for however long it takes to smoke a cigarette.

As I said, a flaw. One IT solution that has so far eluded all the brains in Silicone Valley.

Because right now, on any given day, and through no fault of their own, smokers enjoy the most sociable breaks of us all.

If that isn't discrimination, what is?

                                                        *



Dear reader,

Hello from my corner of Dublin! I'd be delighted if you'd 
SHARE this column via the sharing buttons below.


If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every fortnight, go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.
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Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. See sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.


                                                                             

#smartphones #design #socialmedia #humour #ThisFunnyIrishLife

Monday, 15 May 2017

SPIDERS 'n RODENTS 'n SNAKES: OH NO!


   







Hamsters: small, cute and not a bit scary.




I AM afraid of spiders.

Correction: I am really, really afraid of spiders.

Irrationally so, of course, because as I live in Ireland, the only dangerous spiders to be found, are in the tropical house in the zoo.


It's a long time since I've been there. We used to take the offspring a lot when they were younger. They were fascinated. So was I, in a slightly horrified but trying-not-to-be-in-front-of-my-kids kind of way.


I'm not sure if there's a deep, psychological reason for my fear of spiders. Obviously, I'm not an arachnophobe. I can actually walk into a room where there's a spider. Once the spider is on the far side of the room. And it's no bigger than the tip of my little finger. And one of us is leaving the room soon.


They're usually an OMG-he's-so-cute-what's-he-called?!

I am sure I am afraid of other creatures too. Snakes probably. I've never actually seen one that isn't behind reinforced glass. St Patrick had the right idea when he drove them out of Ireland. What we were thinking, when we decided to bring a few of them back in, is anyone's guess!


And obviously I wouldn't be all that keen on rodents. The wild ones. Although I know for a fact that I'm not as bad as some people.

I have a friend who is so terrified of mice, that she can't bear to say the word. Her friends are not allowed to mention it in her company. If they must be referred to, one says, 'the animal that rhymes with house'. I'm not kidding.


One year, Santa Claus brought her youngest child a hamster. I quite like hamsters. They respond well to being handled and they don't have a long tail. They have tiny ears, and a habit of storing food in their cheeks. On the cute scale, they're usually an OMG-he's-so-cute-what's-he-called?!


Hammy the Hamster was resident...the friend and I made a pact.

The friend was having none of it. The hamster lived in a very clean hutch in a corner of the youngest child's bedroom. During the whole time it lived there, the friend refused to go into her child's room, unless the hutch was first moved or covered.

As far as she was concerned, there was no difference between Hammy the Hamster (names have been changed to protect the rights of the rodent) and every mouse in existence.


Spiders, on the other hand, keep showing up in their web loads.

The same friend, however, is not afraid of spiders. And she lives right across the street.


For the two years that Hammy the Hamster was resident on our road, the friend and I made a pact: one initiated by her. The deal was that if Hammy managed to escape his hutch, the friend would come running across to me. I would go in, capture the mad hamster and return him safely to The Hutch, Corner of the Bedroom. 

If I in turn, encountered a spider, she would come straight over and return it to the garden. It was a deal which suited us both.


The only problem of course, is that Hammy has long since gone to hamster heaven. Spiders, on the other hand, keep showing up in their web loads. 

It's as if they've heard on the arachnid grapevine, that we're a spider-friendly house (they're delusional), or that there are lots of places to hide (it's an old house, so they're probably right), or that there's a plentiful food supply.

There could definitely be something to that last theory. Because the second I open a window or door, at least one fly joins us inside. It's as though they just circle, biding their time, until I cave. But I digress.

It hardly seems fair to the friend that I would call on her help these days. She doesn't need me, to deal with escaping hamsters. So I have to face my fears alone.


The friend's youngest child is no longer really a child. She's 17 now. Actually, she'll be 18 at the end of the summer.

The thing about 18 is that it's a very special birthday. Deserving of a party and wonderful, thoughtful gifts.

I wonder if she'd like a new hamster?

                                                     *



D
ear reader,

Hello from my corner of Dublin! I'd be delighted if you'd 
SHARE this column via the sharing buttons below.


If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every fortnight, go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.
   1. NEVER MISS my fun, fortnightly personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. See sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.

Monday, 1 May 2017

HAPPINESS IS...



                                      Happiness is....whatever you want.



GRAND statement of the day: we are obsessed with happiness.


Obviously, we are obsessed with lots of stuff. Climate change, karma, tidiness, relationships (specifically, 'relationship goals' according to the experts), animals, politics, religion...the list could fill this column.


Let's not do that. 


It's just that I've read a lot about happiness recently. There's a lot of it around. Not happiness per se. Although there could be a lot of that around too.

But there's a lot of talk about it. Articles, slogans, memes...witty one-liners. It's been trending on social media. Right along with clever-things-your-cat-can-do and climate change.


Start asking what we can do, to be happy today

They're all difficult concepts. Well, maybe not the clever cats thing - although have you seen that stuff, and are you suspicious that it might be photo-shopped? - but definitely happiness and climate change. 


There are, for example, the world's happiest countries. I can't remember exactly which ones they are. One or more of the Scandinavian countries are in there. Switzerland made the list. I can't recall the others.

They all have something in common. It might be extended, paid holidays, or free childcare, or equal rights for women. You'd think I'd remember something as important as that. That I wouldn't be quite so vague about the subject.


It's not that I'm dismissive of it. Far from it. It's just that as I flick through these particular posts on Facebook or Twitter, they tend to blur a bit.

Little cartoon child and the catchphrase: Happiness is...

And even if all the conditions are perfect for a happy life, surely it has to come down to the individual. I know lots of people who are always happy. At least, they always seem happy. And I know others who never seem to be happy.

One of the current theories about happiness is that we don't need self help books or therapy sessions, or anything very complicated, at all.

Apparently we just need to need to lower our expectations. There's a shocker!

Or maybe it is shocking. Maybe we've forgotten that is the secret. If there is a secret at all.

Should we stop asking ourselves what we need to make ourselves happy?
And start asking what we can do, to be happy today?

I remember those little cartoon figures from my childhood. You know the ones: little cartoon child, and the catchphrase: Happiness is...

Is what, though? But that's the beauty. It's whatever you want.
- A walk on the beach.
- A coffee with friends.
- A smile from a stranger.
- A hug.

Maybe happiness as an abstract concept, is too difficult to grasp...too difficult to achieve. Maybe we simply need to concentrate on the small stuff. The ordinary things.

So, from me to you: I hope you do something that makes you happy today.
And tomorrow.
And the day after...

                                                         *

Dear reader,

Big welcome from Dublin. 
Please SHARE this column via the sharing buttons below.

Why not become a FOLLOWER of this blog? When I get 50 followers, I'll draw out all the names from a hat, and gift an e-copy of my book, through Amazon, to 3 winners. Or you can nominate a friend to receive it instead.  


If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every fortnight, go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.

   1. NEVER MISS my fun, fortnightly personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. Sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.

Monday, 17 April 2017

EASTER: PLANT SOME NEW LIFE.



                             My bid to make Easter about more than the chocolate

I FEEL there must be quite a strong urban-rural divide when it comes to feasts like Christmas and Easter.

More so when you consider farming. Despite the fact that it's dying out a bit in Ireland, there's still a fair amount of farming on this island.

Because even though people, no matter what their background, usually have more in common than not, it's hard to imagine too many farmers, painstakingly hanging dozens of decorative eggs on the tree in their garden. I could be wrong.


Farming has changed, of course. As a child, I got to spend a fortnight each Summer, sharing a massive old farm house in Cork with two other families - one of whom owned the house and worked the farm.

They strut around the garden, bullying the dog

They were the days before health and safety regulations tied us all up in knots, and when I wasn't digging sandcastles on the local beach with brothers and cousins, I was messing about a farmyard with the farmer's children.


But it's the closest I've come to real rural living. Ever.

And as I was buying a shoulder of lamb for the meal this year, it struck me how much of a disconnect there is between the farmer breeding those animals, and somebody like me buying the cut of meat at my local butcher's.


I'm not sentimental. We don't eat huge amounts of meat, but we are all happy omnivores.


But despite my city background, I know enough to realise how little I know about the realities of life at the other end of the food chain.

Which is probably why, as I get a bit older, I find myself wondering if I should make a bit more effort to grow some food.

Note I said, grow some food. Not keep animals. Friends of ours keep laying hens in their suburban garden. They have names like Flossie and Henrietta, and when they are not in their enclosure, they strut around the garden, bullying the dog, or wander into the kitchen for a look around. I'm not quite ready for that.

I don't want to boast, but I am a brilliant dandelion grower

But in years gone past, we have grown tomatoes and strawberries and raspberries on our patio. We went a bit overboard with the tomatoes, and because they were all the same variety, they all ripened at the same time.

I grew very creative. Short of bottling them - I have my limits - we ate them with everything. I think of that year as my Italian Summer.

Another year we tried to grow potatoes down the end of the garden, and dubbed them surprise potatoes, because it was a surprise when we found one.

And I swore I'd never grow broccoli again, when the slugs grew fat on them.

It's tempting to imagine though, that with a bit of work, I could grow a few easy things. Onions, maybe. Lettuce.

I was thrilled to read that dandelions are completely edible. Packed with Vitamin C, they can be washed and scattered through your salad. I don't want to boast, but I am a brilliant dandelion grower. 

And we still have rocket growing wild on our doorstep, after we planted it two years ago!

I also thought I had mint, and chopped up a bunch of leaves to fragrance the jug of drinking water on the table, at a recent dinner with friends.

It was only afterwards that I discovered that the huge plant was actually a huge - though harmless - weed.

It's not the only weed I haven't tackled: we have giant planters that once sported shrubs and flowers. They are currently a mess, but perfect for small-scale herb and vegetable growing, and less daunting than a full vegetable patch.  

So as I nibble on a chocolate egg this Easter, I know this year, I will again strive, in my own small way, to connect at a very basic level, with our food.

Cáisc shona dhiabh.*

                                                     *



*Happy Easter.

Dear reader,

Warm welcome from Dublin this Easter. 
Please SHARE this column via the sharing buttons below.

Why not become a FOLLOWER of this blog? When I get 50 followers, I'll draw out all the names from a hat, and gift an e-copy of my book, through Amazon, to 3 winners. Or you can nominate a friend to receive it instead.  


If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every fortnight, go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.

   1. NEVER MISS my fun, fortnightly personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. Sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.

Monday, 3 April 2017

TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH: INSTRUCTIONS INCLUDED



                                           The big day: couples have a catalogue of choice.                                 



AN IRISH couple recently exchanged their wedding vows in Dublin's Ikea.

There, in that vast cathedral of beautiful beds, colourful couches and flat-packed bookshelves, they stood in front of their closest family and friends, the store staff and a vast TV audience, and professed their love, devotion and promises, to assemble forever, together.

The venue for such a special occasion is the ultimate expression of reality TV, not to mention the result of leaving a vastly important decision entirely to the groom.

The Ikea couple were contestants on Don't Tell The Bride


And before everyone jumps up and down in indignation, at my apparent sexism, let me point out a couple of things.

1. Most men, are to my mind, fabulous, wonderful, caring, strong, problem-solving, supportive people. I am married to one.

2. In a million years, I would not have let him choose where and how we exchanged our wedding vows. It has to be a joint decision.

The Ikea couple were contestants on the popular Irish reality TV show, Don't Tell The Bride. The bride in question (I feel so bad, calling her the Ikea bride), apparently expressed a long-held wish to wed in a castle. Enough said.

I'm trying not to be too prescriptive. When I married 24 years ago (what can I say? I married VERY young ;) it was a traditional church wedding.

The kind of wedding that most couples in Ireland had at that time. Those who didn't want a church wedding, got married in a registry office.

What we don't do...is hand over control for our big day to the groom


Now, thanks to more relaxed rules, state ceremonies don't have to be in an office. They can be in beautiful places like castles and public gardens.

We're still not at the stage where couples can marry in their own garden, or on a beach. Although admittedly, it's hard to see many opting for an Irish beach. Which are beautiful in a kind of wild and wind-swept way.  

But what we don't do - and I'm talking about women - is hand over complete control for our big day to the groom.

Apart from the fact that he has splendid speeches and mad moves on the dance floor to worry about, the Ikea wedding proves that men are not entirely clued into romantic venues.

I'm open to the possibility that the Ikea bride really likes Ikea

Probably because until most men actually decide to marry, they haven't given their wedding a single thought.

Most women, on the other hand - and certainly once they've decided to marry - give it a lot of thought.


They want it to be special. And generally not in an oh-my-God-they've-an-amazing-special-on-cushions-and-throws, as they walk up the aisle.


Let's leave the whole life-long walking-up-the-aisle-in-a-castle-dream, aside for now. I'm open to the possibility that the Ikea bride really likes Ikea. And you know, maybe the lovely Ikea people threw in those fab Swedish meatballs for their wedding feast.

Ikea is unlike most other big stores: it's a destination. When the Dublin store opened a few years ago, I paid a visit. Maybe two. I loved what they sell. What's not to love? You can furnish your whole house and buy cool Swedish food all under the one roof.

But once you're there, it's hard to leave. I was there for half a day: that's how long it took me to find my way out of the place.

Yes, I do have an appalling sense of direction. But I digress. 

If I were that gorgeous Ikea bride, I'd be planning my first wedding anniversary now: a romantic weekend away in a beautiful Irish castle.

My advice, for what it's worth: Don't tell the groom.


                                                                                    *

 Dear reader,

Big welcome from Dublin, and thanks a million for popping by.
Please SHARE this column via the sharing buttons below.

Why not become a FOLLOWER of this blog? When I get 50 followers, I'll draw out all the names from a hat, and gift an e-copy of my book, through Amazon, to 3 winners. Or you can nominate a friend to receive it instead.  
Feel free to drop by NIUME where my blog is syndicated.

If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every fortnight, go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.

   1. NEVER MISS my fun, fortnightly personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. Sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.

Monday, 20 March 2017

A Saint by any other name


                                Confirmation: The one time children get to choose their own name.


WHAT'S in a name?

What about Ignatious or Gertrude, Scholastica or Hubert? Strange? Old-fashioned? Slightly religious sounding? Check.

All saints' names: none of them commonly used. Yet still chosen by Catholics for one of the defining days in their young lives: Confirmation. 

This is the season for it: a time when the majority of children aged 11 or 12, in their final year of primary school, receive the Catholic sacrament.

Earlier this month, a friend's 12 year old daughter chose the name Agnes.


It is - in this country at least - considered a very old-fashioned name. In the last 50 years, you won't find it in the top 10 baby names for girls.

But despite the fact that the average 12 year old has strong views about everything from outfits for the day, to how they'd like to celebrate this milestone, their chosen names are sweetly out of touch with modern times.

By May, lots of our boys will boast the name Francis

Popes' names tend to be popular for boys. A few years ago, there was a fair smattering of Benedicts. By May - the end of Confirmation season - lots of our young boys will boast the name Francis.


Traditionally, devotion to saints was as important in Ireland as devotion to God. Or Guinness. Our national saint, Patrick, is celebrated on March 17th, all around the world. Apparently he married a woman called Sheelagh. Another saint's name, as it happens. 

Most of the...schools are still under the influence of the religious orders

Of course, in past generations, everyone had their own special saint. If you were worried about anything, it was straight to the church to light a candle.

St Anthony: the patron saint of lost things. I have a feeling that he's a massively busy saint. St Jude: the patron saint of lost causes. Ditto, St Jude! St Gerard Majella: the patron saint of pregnant women. Far as I know, there's a patron saint for just about everything.

Devotions always seemed to matter more to women. Likely because in a society run by men, particularly by men in the Catholic Church, they probably figured they had a better chance of sorting their problems with a bit of divine intervention. 


And in 2017, the reason so many Irish children are confirmed, may have less to do with faith and devotion, and more to do with the fact that most of the secondary schools are still under the influence of the religious orders.

Whilst we have some of the most highly educated youngsters in the world, many of our schools require children to have been baptised and confirmed before admission. 


Part of the celebration is money

The right or wrong of this is a debate for another day. And don't get me wrong: we have choices. More multi-denominational and secular schools means increasing freedom for families.


Yet Confirmation continues to be hugely important in the lives of young Irish people. Not least because it's considered a day of celebration.

And there's money involved. Most children who make their Confirmation, also make a few hundred euros, thanks to godparents, grandparents and various generous well-wishers.

That saint's name is rarely used in ordinary life after that. A birth cert or a passport will have a first and middle name. Nobody will ever know the person's own chosen name, unless they are told.

The Dad delights in telling people his Confirmation name: Tarsisious. But he put a huge amount of thought into his choice.

As did the child who chose Agnes. The early Roman is the patron saint of amongst other things, chastity, girls, engaged couples and rape survivors. The 12 year old who took her name, is well read and highly articulate. She describes herself as a feminist.

Whatever your beliefs, in a world where pre-teens are under increasing social, economic and peer pressures, the act of choosing a saint's name is, if nothing else, a perfect excuse for self-reflection.


                                                                               *

Dear reader,

Big welcome from Dublin, and thanks a million for popping by.
Please SHARE this column via the sharing buttons below.

Why not become a FOLLOWER of this blog? When I get 50 followers, I'll draw out all the names from a hat, and gift an e-copy of my book, through Amazon, to 3 winners. If you've already read it, you can nominate a friend to receive it instead.  


If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every fortnight, go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.

   1. NEVER MISS my fun, fortnightly personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for a different read this week, why not try a witty, Irish romantic comedy? Check sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.